No witness would forget the scene -- the lights, the shadows, the body in the doorway, the bewildering shockwave that from its 620 Broadway epicenter shot through Columbus.
About 30 minutes after midnight on Oct. 19, 1992, every light was on in Muscogee School Superintendent Jim Burns' home, a two-story Victorian house at mid-block on Broadway's east side.
Outside, across the brick-paved street, by the big trees in the median, a crowd was gathering.
Those assembling on the grassed median could see into the open front door of the house, and they could see Burns, in a T-shirt and boxer shorts, lying on his back in the foyer, his bare feet toward the door, blood on the floor around him.
Beyond the bright house lights, bystanders saw flashes of an eerie blue hue in Burns' home -- an ultraviolet light police used to track blood.
"It was dramatic -- the lights are on over there in their house, and that figure lying out there in that door," recalled Billy Winn, a neighbor who lived around the corner on Front Avenue.
Winn had rushed two blocks over when another neighbor called to say something had happened to the superintendent. "It was a macabre scene," he remembered.
That scene will be resurrected this week as the man accused of fatally stabbing Burns during a burglary goes on trial for a second time, his first case having ended in a mistrial in September 2012.
Kareem Lane's second murder trial starts at 9 a.m. Monday in Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters' ninth-floor Government Center courtroom. A jury of seven blacks and five whites, eight of them women and four of them men, was selected last week.
Lane, who after his mistrial was freed on $30,000 bond and now lives in the Birmingham, Ala., area, will be represented by Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson, formerly a prosecutor with the district attorney's office.
The lead prosecutor will be Assistant District Attorney George Lipscomb, aided by District Attorney Julia Slater and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Cooley. LaRae Dixon Moore, who first prosecuted Lane, since has joined a local law firm.
The prosecution will argue that despite an inconclusive DNA test on the knife found by Burns' body, ample circumstantial evidence shows Lane, a 17-year-old Shaw High School student in 1992, was the intruder who stabbed Burns in the back.
The defense will claim police built a weak case aimed only at incriminating Lane instead of exploring other possibilities in the slaying of an unpopular school district leader who'd made powerful enemies.
Critics such as school board representative John Wells already had called for Burns to be ousted. The school district, ever a rumor mill even in quiet times, was abuzz with gossip of scandals and machinations.
The hearsay included reports that the school board would try to send Burns packing at its meeting on Oct. 19, 1992, but also that Burns had evidence of malfeasance he'd use against board members.
Such innuendo within the district had spread beyond the classrooms and administrative offices. A poisonous atmosphere of intrigue and distrust had developed.
Some principals hated Burns, and made no secret of it, calling the newspaper to complain, said Winn, back then the Ledger-Enquirer's editorial page editor.
Burns was an outsider trying to make his mark on the school district, to break up what some called a "good ol' boy" bureaucracy intent on maintaining its status quo. He infuriated his critics, who believed his priority was protecting his own self-interest.
"There was plenty of contention and dissatisfaction and anger, and it was easy to believe rumors about people," said Winn, who later tried to look into some of what he'd heard, but found any evidence evanescent. "The sources dried up."
So it was in this atmosphere that an intruder stabbed Burns in the back, in his bedroom, and got away. Under the circumstances, it looked like an assassination.
Phones began to ring all over town, spreading the news in an era before widespread Internet use and social media.
"For the next few days, it was a blur," Winn said.
Amid the mystery, people tried to reconstruct in their minds what had happened, or could have happened.
Jim Burns and his wife, Stella, had spent the previous weekend with Burns' parents on vacation property near Cashiers, N.C. The parents, who lived in Mobile, Ala., had come to Columbus to meet Burns, to travel north together.
Unsure when they would arrive, Burns had told his wife to leave them a key to the front door under the mat. No one remembered to retrieve it.
After their weekend in the mountains, they returned Sunday, Oct. 18, 1992. Burns' parents were to spend that night with their son and his wife.
Like many in Columbus, Burns that evening tuned into the second World Series game pitting the Atlanta Braves against the Toronto Blue Jays. Atlanta was the home team.
The game had promise but ultimately proved disappointing for Braves fans: The Braves were ahead 4-3 going into the ninth inning, and then the Blue Jays scored two to win 5-4.
Burns retired to bed.
Stella Burns told police she was sound asleep when the bed shook violently and Jim Burns yelled, "Get out of here, you son of a bitch!"
"All of a sudden I looked and I realized that my husband was chasing someone out of the bedroom," she testified in 2012. "I could see my husband's white underwear, but the other person in front of him was just a blur."
Jim Burns left a trail of blood down the stairs.
The knife penetrated deeply enough to nick an artery. The bed's shaking may have been his falling onto it during the struggle, leaving blood. When he ran out of his bedroom, heart pumping from adrenaline, he already was dying.
As the intruder sprinted out the front door, Burns stopped at the threshold.
His wife told police that as she reached the top of the stairs, she saw him standing at the open door, looking to his left, south on Broadway. Then he fell onto his back, the knife on the floor beside him.
Stella Burns' screams rent the night.
It was around 12:20 a.m.
The first officer to arrive found her at the foot of the stairs.
"She was continuously trying to get to where he was at, and I just tried to keep her in that little hallway," the officer said of the foyer.
A key was in the front door lock.
Two blocks over, on Front Avenue south of Sixth Street, a gray Ford Ranger pickup truck was parked facing south on the one-way, northbound street. A resident saw it around 11:45 p.m., and knowing her neighbors were not home, she reported it to 911.
Later she and a second witness reported seeing a masked man in a jogging suit run to the truck, get in, and drive south. She called 911 again.
Around 1 a.m., as Winn and other neighbors stood restlessly in the median outside the crime scene, patrol officers stopped a gray Ford Ranger pickup on Macon Road near Rigdon Road, where the school district central office stands today.
The driver was Kareem Lane.
Inside officers reported finding black gloves, a knife sheath, a switchblade knife and a BB pistol. The residents who'd reported the truck said it was the one they had seen.
Kareem Lane was detained for questioning, and police questioned him for hours.
He'd been working at a Hardee's restaurant on Victory Drive. He said he got off around 10:30 p.m., changed out of his uniform and went to the L&J game room on Victory Drive, where he listened to music in his truck before going home.
Lane, who lived with his parents, Willie and Linda Rochelle Lane, on Bertcliff Avenue in Midland, said he hadn't been downtown that night, and he led detectives on a circuitous route to retrace his drive home.
Lane's father was in the military, moving his family wherever he was assigned to duty. Lane's mother was an academic, who in the early 1980s had worked as a substitute and later a social studies teacher at what was then Rothschild Junior High School. She resigned in 1984, when her husband was reassigned to Atlanta.
Because Lane grew up in Stone Mountain, lived in Midland, worked on Victory Drive and went to Shaw off of Schomburg Road, he was considered a newcomer who would know only Columbus' main roads, not its back streets.
Lane used that in his own defense, during his interrogation. He did not know downtown, he said; he knew nothing of the Historic District where Burns lived and did not know how to navigate it.
Lane should have been in school the next day, yet he never asked to call his parents as police questioned him, officers said.
Though in Lane's first trial a witness said photographically the knife that killed Burns matched the sheath in Lane's truck, the knife could not be inserted into the sheath without tainting the evidence. Detectives decided they could not prove Lane had been inside Burns' home, so they let him go.
And they let the Ford Ranger pickup go with him. When they went back for it later, it had been thoroughly cleaned.
One reason authorities shifted their focus from Lane was motive. No one could figure out why a teenager from Stone Mountain, Ga., would plot to kill the school superintendent.
And with Columbus' rumor mill running overtime, lots of motives for others made the rounds. Police got distracted. Because they'd found blood in Burns' bed, where he fell during the fight, maybe his wife stabbed him, some theorized.
Others thought maybe the rumors Burns had some dirt on the school board were true, so an assassin killed him. The imprecision of assassinating someone with a small knife puncture to the back did not dissuade them.
Then-Coroner Don Kilgore had his own theory. He hypothesized Burns stabbed himself in the back to get sympathy, and he hadn't meant to kill himself.
The gossip turned even more vicious, back then a trend following the unnatural deaths of previous Superintendent Braxton Nail, who police said hanged himself with a garden hose from a tree in his backyard in 1989, and Ledger-Enquirer Executive Editor Jack Swift, who shot himself in 1990.
Such slander's typical for Columbus, Winn said. "It's nasty, and it's directed at anybody who's had any responsibility for a large organization. It's characteristic of here."
And it's impossible to investigate because "it's so scatterbrained, and yet so vicious," he added.
Some detectives wanted to delve into school district finances. They wanted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation called in. They were overruled.
In Lane's first trial, prosecutors would mention the tangents police took.
LaRae Moore said police "missteps" impeded the investigation, including the "police department caving in to certain pressures -- outside pressures -- a series of false leads and preconceived notions about the type of person who could have, would have, committed this crime."
As the case went cold, Kareem Lane went on to graduate from Shaw in 1993 and join the Marine Corps. Honorably discharged, he later moved to Pell City, Ala., to work for an auto parts manufacturer.
He married and lived in a mobile home park. He played and refereed soccer and recorded music, some of which prosecutors later wanted introduced as evidence, claiming it had incriminating lyrics. Lipscomb has withdrawn that pretrial motion.
After Burns' death, in-house administrators resumed running the Muscogee County School District. The colleagues who'd come here with Burns fled, some believing he had been assassinated. One bought a gun for self-defense.
Details of the case faded from memory, as the years passed, but its shadow still haunted the city. Outsiders did not forget.
Winn, who'd written extensively about Columbus "Stocking Strangler" rapes and serial killings of older women in 1977 and 1978, said Burns' homicide stuck to Columbus.
"People ask me more often when I'm out of town about the Burns' killing than they ask me about the stranglings -- it seems to me that's that case," he said, noting lots of places have serial killers, but not so many have unsolved school superintendent homicides.
Said Winn, "When a superintendent's killed, word spreads all through the educated community. You kill a school superintendent, people pay attention in Washington and New York and Los Angeles and every place else."
In 2007, Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren assigned Detective Randy Long to work full-time on the city's cold case homicides. The Burns case was among them.
The knife was sent off for DNA testing. Lane submitted to a saliva swab for a DNA sample.
Initially police reported the comparison was a match, saying a Pennsylvania laboratory notified them of the results April 30, 2010, just days before authorities arrested Lane at his Pell City mobile home.
Extradited to Columbus, Lane would remain jailed from May 2010 until he was released on bond after his September 2012 mistrial.
His attorney repeatedly tried to get Lane's bond lowered, but no judge would drop it below $750,000, more than Lane could afford.
When he finally went to trial, experts testified that what had been reported as a DNA match was not. The tests simply did not rule Lane out as having held the knife. Testing also showed a third individual, other than Burns or Lane, had left DNA on the weapon.
Jackson, Lane's attorney, hammered the prosecution for the uncertainties of its case. Prosecutors had no DNA match, so they still had nothing to prove Lane was in Burns' house, and still no motive for Lane to kill Burns.
After three days of deliberation, the jury deadlocked, and Judge Peters declared a mistrial. Attorneys said the jury had voted 10-2 to acquit Lane.
Now a new jury's to consider the case, and 22 years after the man to whom she'd been married three decades died at his own doorstep, Stella Burns Butler is coming back to Columbus, again seeking resolution of this lingering nightmare. Shell-shocked by her husband's homicide, she afterward moved to Florida. She later remarried.
Kareem Lane's wife, Carol, will come to town, too. She and her husband have a son now. Lane said she couldn't make it here for jury selection, but she'll come for the trial.
Burns' daughter Andrea Butler will accompany her mother. Last week she emailed this statement: "Losing our loved one in such a senseless way has been painful and difficult for my family. We are so thankful that the district attorney's office has the courage to retry this case. My family will be there every day of the trial praying for justice."